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70,000+ Ontario kids seeking publicly-funded autism supports

Ontario’s fiscal watchdog says there are more than 70,000 children seeking support through the Ontario Autism Program, but fewer than 15,000 are getting funding for core therapy.

Not all children registered in the program are waiting for core therapy, which funds applied behaviour analysis, speech language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health services, but the Ontario Autism Coalition says most do need those services, at varying levels.

The Progressive Conservative government has more than doubled the budget for the Ontario Autism Program, now at $720 million, but that is funding just a few thousand more children for core services than the program under the former Liberal government in 2018.

According to a previous report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, about 10,365 children were receiving needs-based therapy in 2018-19, but the current government stopped enrolling children into core therapy as it redesigned a new program in 2019.

It was forced to go back to the drawing board when families said its new program would not meet the needs of most children and only started enrolling children in its new program in 2022.

Figures obtained by The Canadian Press through a freedom-of-information request show that by the end of March, 14,886 children were receiving funding for core services.

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